Lesson Planning with Mind Maps

Recently, Meister’s Hannah Wayne hosted a webinar called Lesson Planning with Mind Maps on Biggerplate, a MindMeister partner. In this post, she looks at some of the key points from that webinar, which include how to use mind maps in the classroom and tips for getting the most out of MindMeister as your digital mind mapping tool.

Lesson Planning with Mind Maps

Hi! My name is Hannah Wayne, and I’m the Partner Management Intern here at Meister. However, before I started my current job, I trained as a teacher and worked across Europe and the United States in primary and secondary schools.

For this reason, I was really excited to get the opportunity to share some of my experiences and theories during a recent Biggerplate webinar. Let’s look at the key takeaways from the session and examine how you can take some of my ideas into your own classroom with MindMeister.

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Mind Maps in Education: Benefits for Teachers

As teachers, we all want to engage our students and find tools that help us do so effectively. Mind mapping, and specifically mind mapping software like MindMeister, is perfect for this, as it supports meaningful learning. The theory is that students can better integrate information into their existing subject knowledge if they see connections between topics. 

While meaningful learning is a skill that needs to be practiced, the use of mind mapping in the classroom is a big step in helping teachers scaffold this process. Seeing information presented as a combination of text and images helps students make the vital connections that are so important to knowledge retention. As students learn more, they can further refine their ideas and learning processes. 

There are plenty of arguments that support the use of mind mapping for education. Let’s look specifically at how you can use mind maps to improve your lesson planning, then examine some practical examples for using mind maps and MindMeister in your classroom. 

Read more in The Teacher’s How-To Guide on our blog.

Why Use Mind Maps for Lesson Planning?

Reason #1: They’re Great for Creating Cross-Content Units

As teachers, we would all love to create lessons that are relevant to our students, teaching them skills that will serve them through life. However, it can be difficult to teach skills like critical thinking, adaptability and collaboration and meet curriculum standards at the same time. 

Creating cross-content units helps bring some balance to your lessons. They ensure that subjects aren’t taught in a vacuum and that students can develop diverse skills. However, collating content from different places can often lead to inefficiencies: not only is information scattered across PDFs, word documents and presentations, it’s also difficult to see the connections between each subject. 

MindMeister can help you overcome these challenges when it comes to planning and executing cross-content lessons. Firstly you can gather all the information you want to pass on to your students in a central location, in advance: simply link to the materials you need from a single mind map. Better yet, you can draw visual connections between topics and expand on them in the lesson itself as part of a group brainstorming session. 

As a teacher, I found it was best to start with a central idea and move outwards. I would start by mapping a loose framework as part of my lesson plan, then, as the mind map began to take shape, my students often saw connections between ideas that were not initially obvious. The mind map above is an example I created with my students about the author Roald Dahl. First, we added connections to explore the similarities between the characters in two different books, which led to a larger discussion of themes throughout Dahl’s writings.

#2 They’re Adaptable and Agile

As anyone who has ever stood in front of a class knows… things happen. One of the best qualities a teacher can have is flexibility, and the same is true of the tools that we use. Although a good filing system goes a long way, traditional folders don’t provide many options when things don’t fit into the boxes you have made. 

On the other hand, using digital mind mapping for lesson planning allows you to adapt your lessons as they go. Not only can you create a strong visual outline of your plan for the lesson in advance, you can adapt your materials more or less “on the fly”.

MindMeister offers plenty of features that help students participate more productively in the lesson-planning process. For example, if a student has a question, simply ask them to add their query to a “suggestions” section of your lesson-planning mind map. This helps you cover more relevant content and shows your students that you appreciate their contributions to class.

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#3 They’re Suitable for Varied Educational Needs

Universal Design for Learning centers around the idea that accommodations made for students with additional needs can be beneficial to all students. For example, the use of icons, color coding, dynamic layouts, etc., is obviously beneficial for students who don’t respond well to large blocks of text, but it actually serves the needs of all students, not just a few. A more interesting style can make your lesson plans and materials more engaging and embed triggers that help students learn and later recall information. 

 

I have found MindMeister to be a great tool in creating lesson plans that work for everyone. It has big colors, tasty fonts, it’s easy to use, and you can do it all with your finger on a tablet. The mind map above is a great example. It shows my students their schedule for the day, with one color and one icon for each subject. English is connected with a blue line, so my students’ journals, book bag covers, and folders are denoted in blue too. However, the best part is that it makes learning more inclusive. Students who need an iPad to communicate can use the MindMeister app, while those who need a computer for occupational therapy can still access materials via their browser.

Example Mind Maps for the Classroom

Now that we’ve explored some of the benefits of mind maps for lesson planning, I would like to introduce you to some tried and tested examples that I have used to great success in the past.

#1 Character Analysis and Storyboards

This is a great mind map for building comprehension during book projects. I’ve used Scrooge from A Christmas Carol as my example, but it works for all different book types and reading difficulty levels. 

As preparation, create a mind map with a few main themes. As the story progresses, invite your class to populate the map with new ideas and examples that support existing themes. This is a great way to build context rapidly and learn new adjectives from the text.

#2 Engage Students in Discussion — Without Speaking

This is an activity commonly known as “carousel”. In short, the idea is for students to share their ideas about different topics silently. Classroom discussions can often be dominated by a handful of more-confident students, so this mind map technique is designed to give everyone their say.

I find the carousel useful when teaching current events. Usually, I assign three articles for my students to read, and they then use the mind map to comment their opinions: either by adding their own ideas or giving feedback to others.

#3 Group Brainstorms

Brainstorming helps you generate ideas and draw connections between important topics: it’s the perfect start to almost any lesson, and it’s also very simple to plan. Collaborative digital mind mapping takes group brainstorming to a new level, as it allows for a clearer structure, a more organized hierarchy of ideas and the potential to link external resources.

I found mind mapping with MindMeister to be extremely useful for kicking off writing projects. MindMeister allows for an unlimited amount of edits, so your students can start with broad ideas and refine them gradually. It’s also great for group work: multiple users can collaborate on a project or essay plan simultaneously.

Improving Communication

Within the Faculty

All teachers create lesson plans and, because we all want our lessons to be the best they can be, this tends to eat up a lot of time. However, lesson planning with mind maps means that you can easily share lesson plans and templates with other faculty members, improving efficiency and helping you focus more of your time on your students. 

Whether you are brainstorming with colleagues about new research or want to provide your lesson plans or syllabi to other people in your department, MindMeister is the way to go. You can invite users to view your mind map by email or share a link on your website or department page for anyone to view. 

Need a refresher on how to share your MindMeister mind maps? Check out this helpful video guide.

Parent Contact

As teachers, proactive parent communication is vital to positive outcomes. You can use MindMeister to help you with this too: create a single hub with helpful information for parents, including contact details, school supplies, and classroom rules and expectations. It’s a fun way to introduce them to the tools you will be using with their students, and it gives them a better understanding of what a lesson in your class is like!

Try it for Yourself! 

I hope my own experiences of teaching with mind maps has helped convince you that the tool would be a worthy addition to any learning environment. Still not sure? There are plenty of research-backed arguments for mind mapping, which you can find out about on our blog. 

At Meister, we believe in the power of education and have built MindMeister to reflect that. Our Edu and Edu Campus plans are purpose-built to get entire classes on board at minimum cost to institutions. You can find out what’s included in each Edu plan on our educational pricing page. 

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